The New York Police Department reported on Monday a 115 percent increase in bias crimes following the election – just another marker of the swell in hate incidents coinciding with Donald Trump’s ascendance to the presidency. The upsurge in harassment and intimidation has been amply documented and ranges from tearful to bizarre. But one finding in the NYPD report may give even the well-informed reader cause for pause: Most hate crime incidents were directed towards Jews.
“We had a huge spike, right after Election Day,” said Robert Boyce, the NYPD’s chief of detectives. His city suffered a 35 percent rise in hate crimes compared to 2015, with the most intense burst coming after November 8th. Over half of the 43 attacks were directed towards Jews—three times the amount that occurred last November. Meanwhile, the number of bias incidents against Muslims doubled from two to four. Others experiencing an increase in hate crimes include whites and members of the LGBTQ community, according to Boyce.
Although the majority of hate crimes remain racially motivated, Jews are the primary target of religious hate crimes in the United States (even though it is widely disputed that being Jewish is solely a matter of religion.) According to the F.B.I.’s 2015 numbers, 53.3 percent of religiously motived hate crimes, or 664 incidents, were aimed at Jews. That is startlingly high given the context: Jews only constitute 2 percent of the population.
“Overall the level of anti-Semitism in society in dropping, but there is a significant and scary underworld of people out there who really hate Jews; who see them as the evil behind all other evils,” Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Time Magazine. “It is not usually shown to most Americans, but it is steaming right along.”
The SPLC claims there about 892 active hate groups operating in America. Many of them are not only anti-black, but also anti-Jewish.
That being said, growing up Jewish in America is hardly comparable to the plight of other minorities. Most Jews are college graduates – 58 percent – compared with around 20 percent of African-Americans and Latinos. Or using religion as a meter, Jews are the second most educated religious group after Hindus. Jews are over-represented among politicians, celebrities, and Nobel Prize winners. There is only one area I can think of where Jewish representation is more or less proportional: Jews make up 1.7 percent of those behind bars.
So it is especially interesting that one of the most successful factions of the American population cannot seem to shake hate.
Earlier this week, Emma Green of the Atlantic published an article with a provocative title, “Are Jews White?” She had clearly irked David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, whose response on Twitter minced no words: “No – JEWS ARE NOT WHITE!”
Comments like Duke’s are not meant to be taken literally; most American Jews are Ashkenazi, meaning central or eastern European, and share a similar light-skinned pigment. They are meant to be taken figuratively: Jews will never be accepted. Especially by the people that despise them most.